Guidance on Playwork

Playwork is “the specific act of affecting the whole environment with the deliberate intention of improving opportunities for play.”

Dr Fraser Brown, Professor of Playwork

Playwork facilitates children’s play

Children are the experts in their play, and are very clear about how play contributes to their overall wellbeing house style, happiness and ability to be with friends and meet new ones, to stay healthy and enjoy their local area, and feel safe while enjoying new challenges.

“To play is to act out and be wilful, exultant and committed”

Brian Sutton-Smith

Playwork is an approach to working with children in which children determine and control the content and intent of their play, rather than it being led or directed. The play process for children includes exploration, trying out things, testing boundaries of ability as they grow, learning from successes and mistakes to build resilience and adaptability. Playwork is a service delivered by adults for children, either through people, places or a combination of both.

Children’s play experiences are enriched by skilled Playworkers who can turn physical spaces into places of opportunity, imagination and belonging.

Playwork settings

Staffed play provision, youth work, out of school and early learning and care  provision – indoors, outdoors, facility based or mobile- all have a crucial role to play in facilitating children to experience  the freedom and excitement of being able to play in environments which offer a variety of play opportunities and choices.

Play Rangers work with children in parks and open spaces and often Playworkers can be found in schools and school grounds.

Playwork can also be facilitated in specialist settings such as hospitals, extended school provision, children’s homes and prisons.

Playwork qualifications

SkillsActive, as the sector skills council for playwork, works with employers and partners including Play Scotland to develop national occupational standards across the Active Leisure, Learning and Wellbeing Sector.

This is a discrete set of National Occupational Standards (revised 2016) and there is a range of courses in Further Education specialising in play and playwork.

Playwork Principles

The Playwork Principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork and as such must be regarded as a whole.

They describe what is unique about play and playwork, and provide the playwork perspective for working with children and young people.

The principles are based on the recognition that children and young people’s capacity for positive development will be enhanced if given access to the broadest range of environments and play opportunities.

  1. All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
  2. Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
  3. The prime focus and essence of playwork is to support and facilitate the play process and this should inform the development of play policy, strategy, training and education.
  4. For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult led agendas.
  5. The role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play.
  6. The playworker’s response to children and young people playing is based on a sound up to date knowledge of the play process, and reflective practice.
  7. Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.
  8. Playworkers choose an intervention style that enables children and young people to extend their play. All playworker intervention must balance risk with the developmental benefit and well being of children.